Adolf Harnack “The History of Dogma”

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May 23, 2018

Adolf Harnack “The History of Dogma”

“Did not the doctrine of a heavenly aeon, rendered incarnate in the Redeemer, contain another remnant of the old Gnostic leaven? Did not the sending forth of the Logos to create the world recall the emanation of the aeons? Was not ditheism set up, if two divine being were to be worshipped?

A conflict began which lasted for more than a century, in certain branches of it for almost two centuries. Who opened it, or first assumed the aggressive, we know not…

We must describe it as the strenuous effort of Stoic Platonism to obtain a supremacy in the theology of the Church; the victory of Plato over Zeno and Aristotle in Christian science; the history of the displacement of the historical by the pre-existent Christ, of the Christ of reality by the Christ of thought, in dogmatics; finally, as the victorious attempt to substitute the mystery of the person of Christ for the person Himself, and, by means of a theological formula unintelligible to them, to put the laity with their Christian faith under guardians—a state desired and indeed required by them to an increasing extent. When the Logos Christology obtained a complete victory, the traditional view of the Supreme deity as one person, and, along with this, every thought of the real and complete human personality of the Redeemer was in fact condemned as being intolerable in the Church. Its place was taken by “the nature” [of Christ], which without “the person” is simply a cipher.

Jesus is mostly designated with the same name as God, o kyrios [the Lord]. The carelessness of the early Christian writers about the bearing of the word in particular cases, shows that in a religious relation, Jesus could directly take the place of God.

As the Gentile Christians did not understand the significance of the idea that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the designation “Christos” had either to be given up in their communities, or to subside into a mere name.”

pages 183-84

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